BUTTE — While the Obama administration is churning out rules to limit greenhouse gases that cause climate change, some Montana Democrats Friday resisted adding the words “climate change” to additional parts of their party platform.
“We can sit here and talk about what we believe here as Democrats,” said Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, who argued against mentioning the costs of climate change in the platform. “I believe in the (coal) workers who work in Eastern Montana, too.
“There used to be a ton of Democrats in Eastern Montana and on the Hi-Line. There’s none left. When you put something like this in the (platform) … Words do make a difference.”
A party platform committee considered the change, which would have said the party believes in protecting the environment rather than burdening future generations with the “extraordinary costs of climate-change-caused” effects, but voted against adding this new climate-change language.
The Democratic Party platform, which is a statement of party positions and ideals, already has a complete section on climate change, saying the party recognizes that climate change is occurring and supports federal standards to reduce greenhouse gases like carbon-dioxide.
On Friday, state Sen. Dick Barrett of Missoula said even if the new language is left out of the party platform, Republicans are still going to bash Democrats as being anti-coal and for regulations to slow climate change.
“This is not an issue that we’re going to be able to avoid,” he said. “I don’t believe we’re going to be able to downplay it, by removing it from the platform.”
“Both of our U.S. senators, the governor, the Environmental Protection Agency, the president, have acknowledged the existence of climate change and that we have to deal with it,” he added. “I believe that confronting climate change is something that the public needs and something that we should embrace.
“It shows voters that we are committed to dealing with a serious problem that affects their lives. Those people who are going to vote against us because (we are committed about fighting climate change) are going to vote against us no matter what.”
The proposed language change failed Friday when 18 members of the platform committee voted against it and 16 others voted to include some form of concern about “climate change” or “environmentally caused disasters.”
Keane said if Democrats take stands that allow them to be defined as against natural-resource development, it makes it difficult for them to win in eastern Montana and other rural areas.
“If you’re going to do it, don’t expect to ever be in the majority (at the Legislature),” he said.
Keane said climate change isn’t relevant to Montana Democrats because it’s a “global issue.”
“To start saying that we’re going to make a huge difference (on this issue) is crazy,” he said. “Instead of trying to talk about climate change, we should be talking about how to have the clean coal technology.”